Wonderful Opportunities

I have just come back from a really varied few days in various parts of the Midlands. It began with a train trip from home to St Pancras, then King’s Cross up towards Peterborough. I had just settled myself on the train with the book I wanted to read when it was announced that the train was not functioning correctly and we all needed to change to the train on the next platform. This was fine but it meant that the train was very full and so reading became impossible as I clutched my suitcase to me. Everyone seemed to go into commuter mode so conversation was also not possible.(I love my train conversations)  I have noticed a young girl sitting opposite me look sad but it wasn’t until most people got off at Stevenage that we caught one another’s eye and began to talk. She was off to visit her boyfriend in prison, leaving her toddler at home with her mum. As we talked she opened up and t was clear that she needed a parent and toddler group, the health visitor was nagging her, so I asked where she lived. Turns out she lives just up the road from me so I was able to give her my card, tell about our toddler group, and encourage her to visit it.

What a wonderful opportunity I had been given.

I arrived at St Neots and was met by the wonderful Chris Duffett, currently President of the Baptist Union and evangelist extraordinaire. We went back to his house and spent the afternoon chatting before I accompanied him on one of his Big Hearted training courses at a local church. It was wonderful to listen once more to his stories and his passion for reaching people with a good news that God loves them.
The following morning we went off to Peterborough, where I accompanied one of the new members of his team who was spending her first morning visiting the shops in the town centre.
I was amazed at how delighted many of the shop workers were at meeting her and welcoming her into their shops in the future. In the afternoon a group of us went out onto the streets, to give away free cookies, free hugs, and to just sit and listen to people.

We got to talk with so many people, to listen to their stories, and so often to have the opportunity to pray for them – and even be given cans of beer from one person who was trying to give up alcohol  Yes, many people walked past us trying to ignore what was going on, looking at us as though we had completely lost our minds! But so many responded with real surprise and willingness to engage with us. Many gave us the opportunity to pray for them there and then, or at least to offer to pay for them and we got home. It was also a privilege to go in to a tattoo parlour and see how Chris was welcomed with open arms. Building relationships with people had taken time but he really was ministering to those folk as we get to the people we encountered on the street. He gave me such confidence in offering prayer to people.

What a wonderful opportunity I had been given.

I was then going up to Leicester to spend the night with some friends but had to wait an hour for my train and I got talking to a young Muslim girl who lives just a few streets up where I used to live in Leicester. We had a fantastic discussion talking about faith, culture, and lifestyle.

What a wonderful opportunity I had been given.

The next day it was off to Peterborough with my husband and some friends to see Jesus Christ Superstar. An interesting production set against the background of Occupy, the riots, banking and the law. As we waited for the show to start I overheard two women behind me talking and one asked: “do you know what the plot is?” The friend began explaining. Afterwards, as we lfet, I overheard two women who were walking by the side of me trying to work out who the judge had been betraying, arguing as to whether it was Pilate or not and so I was able to tell them that it was indeed the character of Pilate. It was good to see the show again, especially to see it set against a background that connected with today’s culture.

What a wonderful opportunity I have been given.

And so now I am back in the last two weeks of my reading and writing part of my sabbatical, continuing to reflect on what mission looks like today. The events of these last four days have reminded me about how different the world is to when I became a Christian many decades ago: the lack of knowledge of the basic stories of the Bible and especially Christianity, the fact that so many would never darken the doors of the church and yet responded so positively to offers of care, listening, and prayer, that people are open to the gospel just as they were to Jesus’ teaching but we, as Jesus did, need to go to where they are, and where the need is.

What a wonderful opportunity I have been given.

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